WORDS WITH POTENTAIL


WORDS WITH POTENTAIL

Natalie Bright

At last week’s critique meeting, we listened to a story that had been written many years ago. Even though this writer has improved greatly, it was solid—very entertaining and horrifying—we loved it! The potential is even greater based on the feedback. Written as a short story, it’s going to be part of an anthology. I think this author is on the right track by compiling several of her strongest short stories together in one publication. ( I can hardly wait to buy that book, Nandy Ekle!)
Whatever your work in progress might be, whatever fire is burning in your gut at this very minute, whatever idea deserves your attention, those words can become something entirely different in the future. Keep your mind open to the opportunities. For heaven’s sake, don’t delete it! Even bad writing has potential. You can’t edit a blank page. (Wish I had all of those stories and poems I wrote in college. I tossed that journal years ago.)
After I found my way back to writing, a story I wrote about a cowboy called Cecil was accepted in an anthology published by TCU Press almost 13 years later. There is no way I could have known that I would meet a ranch hand with the same name! Meeting the real-life, horse-riding cowboy named Cecil just added more depth and color to my short story. It needed work and it needed a critique from WordsmithSix peeps, for sure. The story became better because of my experiences a decade later. With the help of my critique group, that short story became good enough for publication.
You may be at a point in your writing when it seems rejection is a clear message to give up your dreams of becoming a published author. The very first words by David Morrell, creator of Rambo, keeps echoing through my brain after I heard his talk at an Oklahoma conference,

“Don’t question the why.”

I share this because I have spent, actually wasted, too many years questioning the why. And now I’m asking myself, why for different reasons. Why didn’t I finish that book? I’m staring at a stack of sticky notes and marked up articles for blog ideas, so why didn’t I write them? There’s no way that I could have known back in 1999 that I’d need material in 2017 for two blogs and three orgnizational newsletters. I would have never imagined that I’d have a talented critique group who could boost my confidence and my words. The struggle to write never ceases. Now I’m faced with a part-time day job that will probably go back to full-time soon, and I’ll be frustratingly juggling writing time. What crazy life is this? Opps, there I go again—questioning the why.

The story is in us. The story picked us. We can’t possibly know why. I have to keep reminding myself to stop stressing and find joy in the process.

“Every story I’ve written was written because I had to write it. Writing stories is like breathing for me, it is my life.”
RAY BRADBURY

Find Natalie’s blogs and articles here:
Blogging every Monday about writing life at wordsmithsix.com
Blogging every Friday about the Texas Panhandle at “Prairie Purview”. Read her blogs at nataliebright.com or on the Amazon Author page.
Sign up for here for the newsletter: nataliebright.com
Natalie is editor of “The Window”, the official newsletter of one of the oldest writing organizations in the country, Texas High Plains Writers, org. 1920 in Amarillo, Texas. Here’s the link. panhandleprowriters.org.

Writing Brains & Scrivener


Writing Brains & Scrivener

Natalie Bright

Scrivener software totally gets my writing brain. The more I work in this software, the more I’m amazed at all it can do.

For example, this morning the opening scene for the second book of my Texas Frontier Series popped in my head. BAM! There it was. I am almost 10,000 words into the first draft and the opening chapter I’ve already written is absolutely wrong. Does this ever happen to you? I kept replaying the new scene in my head, over and over until I could get to the keyboard.

Here’s where Scrivener makes your life easy: Within the file that you designate as chapter, you can add a new text file. The chapters will autromatically renumber when you compile the final document. No renumbering pages or worrying about chapter numbers. No cutting and pasting to shift the work. I have a seperate text file for each scene and these scenes can be moved easily around within the manuscript document. That first scene may not be the opeing by the time I reach 30,000 words. No problem. The ‘scene’ file can be shifted to any order within the project file.

For more explaination, here’s the link to watch a great video from the creator of Scrivener:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdwnHo23Ub8

I also recommend the online class, LearnScrivenerFast.com

Stay tuned for more tidbits about this powerful writing tool. Are you using Scrivener? What has been your experience with Scrivener?

Point of View: Omniscient


Point of View: Omniscient

Natalie Bright

“The coffee-room had no other occupant, that forenoon, than the gentleman in brown. His breakfast-table was drawn before the fire, and as he sat, with its light shining on him, waiting for the meal, he sat so still, that he might have been sitting for his portrait.

… He wore an odd little sleek crisp flaxen wig, setting very close to his head: which wig, it is to be presumed, was made of hair, but which looked far more as though it were spun from filaments of silk or glass. His linen, though not of a fineness in accordance with his stockings, was as white as the tops of the waves that broke upon the neighboring beach, or the specks of sail that glinted in the sunlight far at sea.”
The exert above, from A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens, 1946) is an example of storytelling in an omniscient viewpoint.

I’m working on a story with alternating 3rd person and first person, but wondered if I should consider rewrites in omniscient. I need to review point of view to decide, so I’m sharing the information with you as I refresh my memory. Your suggestions and comments are always welcome.

Omniscient Defined

There is no identifiable character observing the scene above and relaying the information. Instead a narrator, who is not identified, tells the tale.

This is not to be confused with head-hopping, where the reader gets into the head of one character, to another, and then back to another. Normally, when the writer changes the viewpoint, or gets into another character’s head, there is a paragraph break or double-double space into a new scene. We’ll take a closer look at head-hopping in a future blog.

With omniscient viewpoint, the narrator conveys the scene without allowing characters to know what they shouldn’t. The narrator in the above example does not let us know the gentleman’s internal thoughts or feelings. We have no idea what he is thinking, however we might have a clue based on his actions.

Here’s another example from Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities:

“”Good Day!” said Monsieur Defarge, looking down at the white head that bent low over the shoemaking. It was raised for a moment, and a very faint voice responded to the salutation, as if it were at a distance:

“Good day!”

“You are still hard at work, I see?”

After a long silence, the head was lifted for another moment, and the voice replied, “Yes—I am working.” This time, a pair of haggard eyes had looked at the questioner, before the face had dropped again.

The faintness of the voice was pitiable and dreadful…”
As a reader, we are never told what the shoemaker is thinking, but obviously from his actions, he is weary and maybe a little aggravated at the interruption.

Have you writing in Omniscient view point? What difficulties have you encountered?

Thanks for following WordsmithSix!

Brick and Mortar versus the Electronic Age


Brick and Mortar versus the Electronic Age

Natalie Bright

 

I wandered into a used bookstore one evening. The atmosphere, sights, and smells were everything you’d expect—glorious. The owner obviously loved his books and had an impressive inventory. He mentioned that he had over 1,000 more books in the back waiting to be shelved. I shook his hand and handed him a few of my bookmarks. While digging in my purse to find a business card, I had meant to say, “My picture book series about rescue animals are eBooks now, but I will have print books sometime this year. Do you host events for authors?”

I never got past the word “eBooks” because he interrupted me with an emotional rant. “I can’t do anything with an eBook. How do I put an eBook in my store? Don’t you love books? I love books. My customers love books. They want something they can hold them in their hands…” and on it went.

My reply was less than professional because I didn’t really think it through. I said, “I want my bookmarks back,” and then I grabbed them and he held tighter and we had a little tug-o-war with a few people staring, wide eyed and aghast. He said, “They’re mine. I’m not giving them back.” It all ended with a few laughs, hugs because this is Texas after all, and then he showed me the Texana section.

Honestly, I am a professional book hoarder. We added a wall of shelves when we moved specifically to hold my dad’s Time Life Series collection. My uncle tells me that he’s leaving me his book collection someday, and I will gladly make space. My heart flutters with joy when I see a pile of used books; stained pages and tattered covers just waiting to be rediscovered. I will never stop buying print books.

Unfortunately, not all the world is as devoted as the bookstore owner and I. The revelation struck me about five years ago. My part-time office help was complaining about her mother who kept insisting she read a Nicholas Spark book. This straight A student confronted mountains of text books and she didn’t want anything else added to her reading list. So her mother said, “Take my eReader. You’ll really love this story.”

My office helper did in fact love the story, and got an eReader of her own. She became a voracious reader, consuming three to four literary novels a week. We had wonderful talks about authors and their stories. There was me lugging my precious book club hardbacks around, stacking them on the floor around my house and office. There was her on the other hand, with her snazzy eReader in a decorative cover, slipping it in a backpack and taking hundreds of books with her wherever she went.

My teenagers have learned to love books because they’re surrounded at home, but their friends tell me they “don’t like books”. Those same kids are ‘reading’ and sharing tons of memes, blogs, poems, clever bits of prose. As writers, we understand words are words, and that someone wrote those words no matter the form. Perhaps a new generation is discovering the joys of reading but on their own terms.

The Future is Now

Way back in 2010, as an Indi Author, I lugged cases of books to events, visited bookstores, and mailed flyers to school librarians trying to get my name out there. In 2016 I launched a new photo-illustrated picture book series about rescue animals, only to have a lot of mom’s tell me, “We want a print version, too.” With limited funds, I’m learning a new software program so that I can duplicate the stories in a format that will be acceptable. Then there’s the money I’ll need to print a high-quality colored book, which I will worry about later. For now, I just want to learn the software.

Apparently, people still love holding picture books, but families are more mobile, too. They live in efficiency apartments or neat homes where they don’t want the clutter of books. The business of books and publishing is topsy-turvy, frustrating, ulcer inducing, and the worst migraine headache you can imagine. The good news about being a writer today is that there is a world out there needing original, quality content.

A World Full of Readers

I truly believe that more people are ‘reading’ now than ever before. Their focus is on a screen.

My eReader is bursting and yet I’ll probably buy two more .99 cent special promotion books before the day is done. I will do everything I can to support brick and mortar stores, too. I will tirelessly volunteer and attend events at libraries because there is no better place to introduce kids to the joys of reading. I will promote other authors and their books. But, I’m not giving up my electronic reader. There is no going back.

The only way is forward.

 

What’s that Smell?


What’s that Smell?

Natalie Bright

Using the five senses to draw readers into your fictional world is probably something you’ve heard before.

THE SMELLS OF CHRISTMAS

What better time of year brings back more memories than the holidays? Last week the owner of our local Mexican food restaurant shared the memories of his grandmother’s kitchen. She lived in a small house, and kept plastic over the windows for added insulation against the cold winter wind. The smells from her tiny kitchen were overwhelming when he stepped inside. Flour tortillas, sizzling beef, cinnamon, sugar and hot chili peppers. As he described the scene it was almost like I was there. I really miss my grandmother’s kitchen too.

HIGH SCHOOL TIME WARP

About a month ago I was reminded how powerful the five senses can create emotion. I walked into my son’s high school band hall. BAM! It was as if I’d been transported through time.

The sensory overload swept me away. The dusty smell from feet taking countless steps on a carpeted floor. The scent of sweat, with 100+ bodies in one room. A few notes from a trumpet. The solid clank of a locker door. A scale of notes by a clarinet. The constant, unending chatter of young voices.

My heart beat a little faster and my throat closed. My eyes actually misted over. I froze. In my mind’s eye I was back there; the Dimmitt High School band hall. The faces of the Bobcat marching band floated through my mind. If we could only go back to those moments for one day. Would you? I certainly would. I would revisit every sight and sound and horrible smell, and I’d go armed with a notebook this time. I’d write it all down to keep that moment forever ingrained into my memory.

A band director snapped me out of my time warp. “Can I help you?” he asked.

I just stood there, gripping three cases of goldfish snacks. “They go around the corner. First door to the left,” he said.

My journey down memory lane was done. Reality crashed around me.

EMOTION IS A POWERFUL THING

There was one other time when a smell overwhelmed me with emotion. My father has been dead almost fifteen years. He owned a welding shop and I hung out there most every day. Several years ago, I toured a huge plant in New Mexico that made natural gas circulating systems as part of a work related field trip. The entire back portion of the plant was a welding room. I walked through the plastic stipes covering the door into a personal meltdown. The smell of heated metal was overwhelming. My eyes filled with tears and it was all I could do to not sob uncontrollably. My father had suffered a long, slow battle with cancer. He had died at home and the visual image of paramedics carrying his body out of the house will forever haunt me. I have no idea what our tour guide said. We took a slow walk through the space and I honestly did not know if I would be able to hold it together.

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS

How powerful our emotions can be when something triggers those memories. Think about how this kind of sensory overload might be for your characters. Create a history for them and then bring them crashing back into reality. The memories can be good, or sometimes that smell might recall something horrific.

KICKING THINGS UP A NOTCH

A children’s author, in describing her process, explained that she makes one final pass of her manuscript to add sensory images. Wish I could remember who said that and give credit, but it was one of those invaluable tidbits I picked up at a writer’s conference. At the point her story is solid, she adds even more sight, sounds, and smells which bumps everything up a notch. The reader can’t help but be immersed even more into that fictional world.

May the sights, sounds and smells of the holiday inspire you!

Merry Christmas!

Nataliebright.com

NaNoWriMo


“There is no perfect time to write. There is only now.” – Barbara Kingsolver

NaNoWriMo.org

Natalie Bright

This year I officially registered to write a novel in the month of November. Several of my critique group members are also attempting to do this, so I’m motivated first of all by the fact that I’ll have to tell them how far along my book has come. We meet again next week.

Also I’m inspired to work by the fact that this book idea has been on my mind for several years, and it’s going to be such a relief to actually have a first draft down on paper. Staying in the chair for long periods of time with my fingers on the keyboard is the hardest thing for me. Maybe NaNoWriMo will be the motivation I need.

The progress graph on the NaNoWriMo website is fantastic. It’s encouraging to be able to update my word count, see the progress, but it’s self-defeating at the same time. Saturday, the day we were supposed to double-up on word count, was a total bust for me. I had three places to be, errands to run, plus two teenagers texting me, which resulted in zero words. There are those days when life takes over and nobody cares about your novel in progress.

TRICKS AND TOOLS

Here we are seven days into writing a 50,000 word novel in a month and I am definitely not where I had planned to be. The good news is that I’ve discovered some pleasant surprises in this experience. The story really flows when you FORCE yourself to focus. It has been a struggle to block out the real word and stay at it until I have my 1500 words or more a day. If I stay at it during lunch, I can crank out 1000 words. I’ve been able to type the rest during shorter sessions here and there, whenever I could manage.

To speed things up for me, I cleaned off the white board next to my desk and wrote character names and setting details. This is book two of a series set in the Texas frontier and it totally stops my forward momentum when I have to look up the name of the trading post on main. Having those details that will be carried throughout the series at hand really saves time.

Is there anything you have done to help with the flow of words for NaNoWriMo? Please share.

I’m thankful for a new week. Carry on writers!

Cultures Unlike Us


Cultures Unlike Us

We had an interesting discussion about cultures that are so very different from us at a recent critique group meeting.

Bullfighting

The discussion began because one among us is researching the Matador and the history of bull fighting for a story. She shared some of what she had learned. The centuries old tradition can be traced as far back as ancient Rome where man–against-animal events were held. Bullfighting is a blood sport deeply entwined into the cultures of Spain, Portugal, and many South American countries. Matadors enjoy celebrity status and the showmanship is very entertaining. A special breed of cattle are bred especially for the bullfighting ring.

Food in the Eyes of the Hungry

Our discussion turned to cultures different from us and their food. It was pointed out that some cultures think “food” when they see a dog, which is considered a delicacy in many Asian cultures. These dogs are bred specifically for the purpose of feeding people.

A visitor from Belgium told me that grocery stores in Europe have horse meat for sale in their meat market along side beef, pork, and chicken. She rarely buys beef because it’s so expensive in her native country.

As an owner of a cow/calf operation in the Texas Panhandle, the ranch horse and the cow dog are our working partners in the ranching industry. Our business is feeding hungry people with Texas Angus beef raised on native grasslands. The American culture has included beef and pork as a mainstay for centuries. I could never plan a menu around a juicy hunk of horse or dog meat. What about having a character eat something odd or cook something they’d never eat themselves? Interesting premise!

Writers and Their Research

One of the things I love about my WordsmithSix writers critique group is how non-judgemental we are. Our discussions cover a wide range of topics, and it’s great fun to dig deep into the issues that impact our stories. We greet each new subject matter with hyper curiosity. We question everything, and since we’ve been meeting for over five years now, we have very open and informative discussion. Visitors to our group are sometimes shocked at our musings.

To get to the heart of the story and to dig deep into our character’s motivation, can writers greet their research without bias? Does our background and beliefs get in the way?

Writing onward…

Set Your Creation FREE


Set Your Creation FREE

By Natalie Bright

 

This thing you’ve created—be it blog, picture book, or novel—becomes real. And real things, on occasion, must be set free.

By setting your words free, I don’t mean submitting your work for publication. I’m talking about letting your creation take on new forms and being open to new opportunities.

In my case perhaps a magazine article, which was rejected, can become something else. I had this great piece about a horse trainer, some photos by a professional photographer and an interesting hook about a rescue horse and second chances. The idea struck me: the story would make a great photo-illustrated picture book. One book became two, then three, and then four—that makes a series. Why didn’t I see it before?

There were some delays, a few road blocks that had to be resolved, but the Rescue Animal Series is finally real! Book 1, Lizzy and Little Bit, was released on Amazon last week. Book 2, FLASH, was launched this past weekend. To date, I have 15 possible titles in the series. It’s just a matter of work and persistence, and allowing the story to develop. It all began as a rejected magazine article.

Sometimes on the way to the dream,

You get lost

And find a better one.

 

MY CHARACTER LEFT ME


MY CHARACTER LEFT ME

By Natalie Bright

Writing an entire novel is the most wonderful, soul-changing, frustrating, dreaded task you’ll ever tackle. In fact, I once said that I’d never writer a book. My articles and short stories were enough for me.

Several years ago I started a lovely historical story with a 16 year old protagonist targeted to YA market. The suggestion was made that I consider dropping her age to 12 or 13. I rewrote it, and now I have two 7,000+ word manuscripts. I never finished either. Both versions seem wrong, leaving me uninspired and frustrated. Where did my main character go? Will she ever emerge again?

Write.

SHE’S BACK…

These past several months, this character has been nagging me a lot. She still holds much mystery for me and I must know more about her and the time of her life. The historical period continues to hold much intrigue. I see her as a young girl, on the verge of being woman. I see her being involved in a forbidden love, so a 13 year old is not going to work. YES! I SEE her and she’s getting clearer every day. As to her exact age, I haven’t a clue. Both versions are a muddle in my head.

Note to self: Don’t question the why. I have a beginning and I have an ending. I need to make a list of possible conflict that she must overcome. I will write the scenes in my head, no matter the order. Make it to the end. With the help of my WordsmithSix group, we’ll make it tidy and tight.

Write more.

CRITIQUE THAT MAY STEER YOU WRONG

I’m not saying that it was a waste of my time to rewrite the book with a younger protagonist. Maybe it will help me see the main character and her journey more clearly. At this point, who am I trying to please? The answer: me.

Take writing advice with a grain of salt. In the end you’re the author and only you can make the final decision. Absolutely, make that scary leap and let other people read your work before you publish. I know that you’ve dug to the depths of your soul and sweated over your pages for months and months, perhaps years.

Step back. Listen carefully to your trusted beta readers. Consider all of the possibilities, but in the end you have the final say.

LET’S BEGIN AGAIN

I’m starting over. For the third pass I’ll use elements from both versions. My gut is telling me this story has potential. Hopefully, I can find the heart of the story and it will emerge from the mess I’ve made. This will be a great project for NaNoMo in November, and I’m going to reach the end this time. Phew. I feel so much better about this. Thanks for listening, WordsmithSix!

Just.

Keep.

Writing.

 

The Perfect Writing Space


The Perfect Writing Space

By Natalie Bright

The second blog post I did for WordsmithSix Blog, I talked about my perfect writing space: our lovely home office. It should have been the perfect place to dream, imagine, explore words, and create. When it came to the work in progress, I couldn’t write a darn thing in that room. Instead, the kitchen table called out to me. I watched my world as I wrote: the kids were much younger, food simmered on the stove, and the dogs peered at me through the window.

Years later WordsmithSix has grown to almost 500 subscribers (thanks everybody!), and I’m writing in a new space.

Luckily, I’ve been able to cut my day job hours which allows me more time to write. In the office space that we share with my in-laws, I’ve taken over my mother-in-law’s office. It hardly seems possible that she’s been gone almost ten years. She was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known. Material wealth had absolutely no meaning to her. She was never interested in fancy clothes, shoes, or filling her home with stuff. Instead, her collection of Stephen King and Dean Koontz hardbacks were her pride and joy. She loved a good horror story. Cooking a huge meal for her family or proudly showing me the first prefect rose on the bush that she had grown from a dead twig where her rewards. This was where she did the books for their real estate business, and where my kids sat on her lap to play computer games. She kept a pile of trucks and legos in the corner.

The memory of her quiet presence reminds me that this was always her office, which is why we haven’t used it until now. It has been transformed into my ordered chaos. Stacks of edited manuscripts, research notes, and books that cover every available space. I don’t have to be orderly or put anything away, and it’s wonderful. I look forward to work every morning and can hardly wait until my hands are on the keyboard.

As for the kitchen table, it’s back to being a table in the kitchen. The home office has been taken over by our high school aged son who has embraced the online gaming community.

I guess the point of this blog is this: be YOU, create when and where you can, and realize that crafting words is a complicated, joyous process that we shall never understand.

What about you – has your perfect writing space changed from time to time?